Friday, December 29, 2006

Budget Talks To Continue

A City Council budget meeting fell through Wednesday (Dec. 27, 2006) because it was not advertised as required by the Open Public Meetings Act.

The council now plans to meet on either Jan. 3 or Jan. 10 to formulate amendments so the FY 2007 budget can be passed. Delayed budget passage will affect the timetable for sending out tax bills and therefore the receipt of tax revenues, possibly causing cash flow problems for the administration, Finance Director A. Raiford Daniels said.

The proposed budget is for the fiscal year that began July 1. It reflected an 8.2 percent increase over FY 2006 when introduced in September. Since then, the city has received word of $900,000 in extraordinary state aid that can be used for tax relief. The council hopes to reduce to tax impact to the cost of inflation, or about 3 percent.

In September, Chief Financial Officer Peter Sepelya said salaries and wages went up by $.7 million and pensions and health benefits each increased by $1 million over last year. Debt service accounted for another $430,000.

Meanwhile, revenues were down by $500,000 in sales of municipal assets, $66,000 in code enforcement fines and $143,000 in court fines, Sepelya said.

Police and fire costs were $20.6 million in FY 2006 but will be $22.2 million in FY 2007.

Total proposed budget: $65.5 million.
Amount to be raised in municipal taxes: $43 million.
Increase without state aid: $305.10 on an average $113,000 home.
Rate per $100 of assessed value: $3.370, up from $3.099.

While awaiting budget passage, the council can appropriate one-twelfth of last year’s budget each month to operate the city. However, the longer it takes, the less can be trimmed from the proposed budget. In July, the council set the tax rate for the last two quarters of 2006 at $3.188, which will offset the final FY 2007 tax rate.

--Bernice Paglia


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